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Sexist Attitudes Among Emerging Adult Women Readers of Fifty Shades Fiction


Stereotypical sexist representations of men and women in popular culture reinforce rigid views of masculinity (e.g., males as being strong, in control, masterful, and aggressive) and femininity (e.g., women as being fragile and weak, unassertive, peaceful, irrational, and driven by emotions). The present study examined associations between the fictional series Fifty Shades—one popular culture mechanism that includes pervasive traditional gender role representations—and underlying sexist beliefs among a sample of 715 women ages 18–24 years. Analyses revealed associations between Fifty Shades readership and sexism, as measured through the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory. Namely women who reported reading Fifty Shades had higher levels of ambivalent, benevolent, and hostile sexism. Further, those who interpreted Fifty Shades as “romantic” had higher levels of ambivalent and benevolent sexism. Our findings support prior empirical studies noting associations between interacting with aspects of popular culture, such as television and video games, and individual beliefs and behaviors.

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Correspondence to Lauren E. Altenburger.

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Altenburger, L.E., Carotta, C.L., Bonomi, A.E. et al. Sexist Attitudes Among Emerging Adult Women Readers of Fifty Shades Fiction. Arch Sex Behav 46, 455–464 (2017).

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  • Media
  • Sexism
  • Gender socialization
  • Emerging adults
  • Romance